Olympic Athletes Will Ride in Toyota’s Latest Zero-emissions Vehicles

One of Japan's goals for the Olympics this summer is to achieve the lowest emissions level of any official fleet of vehicles ever used at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. To help get there, Toyota will provide 3,700 vehicles for the games - 90 percent of them electric.

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Toyota e-Pallette autonomous vehicles lined up in front of the athletes' residences in Tokyo, ready to take them to competition or training. (Photo courtesy the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games)

One of Japan's stated goals in hosting the Olympics this summer is to achieve the lowest emissions level of any official fleet of vehicles ever used at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. To help achieve this goal, Toyota Motor Corp., the country's largest automaker and a main sponsor of the Olympics, will provide 3,700 vehicles for the games - 90 percent of them electric.

Toyota is supplying up to 20 custom-designed "Tokyo 2020 Version" e-Palette autonomous vehicles to support athlete mobility at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 - postponed but not renamed after the coronavirus pandemic forced the games, originally scheduled for last summer, to be held this year instead.

The e-Palettes will offer automated, loop-line transportation in the Olympic and Paralympic villages for athletes and staff, carrying up to 20 standing passengers or up to four wheelchairs and seven passengers.

These vehicles are controlled by an automated driving system that can go up to 20 kilometers per hour (12.4 mph) at SAE level*2 4. The six levels of autonomous operation are defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a U.S.-based, globally active standards-development professional association.

Although a Level 2 vehicle operates autonomously, a driver is always aboard - responsible for operating it, supervising the technology at all times, and taking complete control if things go wrong or there is a system failure.

Level 4 vehicles like these do not require human interaction in most circumstances, but a driver can manually override the autonomous system. So, the Olympic athletes and staff will always have a driver at the helm.

Takahiro Muta, development leader for the unique version of the Tokyo 2020 Version e-Palette, had the health and welfare of the Olympic athletes in mind while he was designing the special edition vehicle.

"Olympic and Paralympic athletes work tirelessly to achieve the impossible, and we wanted to provide them with a vehicle specifically designed and calibrated to fit their mobility needs during Tokyo 2020," Muta said.

“Throughout the development process, athletes, especailly paralympians, helped us to better understand how we could adpt and upgrade the e-pallette to better meet the need for simple, convenient and confortable mobility."

Takahiro Muta, development leader for the Tokyo 2020 Version of Toyota’s e-Pallette.

"We are proud to work with them on a vehicle that will not just move athletes physically throughout the Olympic and Paralympic villages," he said, "but will also offer them new opportunities to interact with others, share new experiences, and be moved emotionally."

Toyota has adapted the battery-electric, self-driving vehicles for use during the games based, in part, on feedback from athletes about their mobility needs in past Olympic Games.

Designed with front-rear symmetry, a distinctive rectangular shape, and wheels at the four corners, the e-Palettes offer expansive, comfortable interior space, large doors and electric ramps so groups of athletes, including Paralympians, can board quickly and easily. Handrails and seats are easy to use regardless of height, and color contrasts are part of the floor, trim, and seats to help color-blind people.

Toyota's Custom-Designed Accessible People Mover

Toyota also will deploy a fleet of 200 specially-designed electric Accessible People Movers to transport athletes, visitors and staff to events and to non-event official sites like the Olympic Village.

Equipped with three rows of seats, the APMs are designed to be quickly configured for a stretcher and two attendants to support relief activities at the competitive events.

An Accessible People Mover can carry five passengers, plus the driver, and can take a wheelchair if the second-row seat is folded over.

Short distance, low-speed vans powered by lithium-ion batteries, the APMs can run 100 km (62 miles) on a charge with a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour (12.4 mph).

These vehicles offer a "last one mile" solution for people with accessibility issues - the elderly, people with impairments, pregnant women, and families with small children.

Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Showcase H2 Technology

About 500 Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars (FCEV) will be provided for the transport of Olympic Games staff around the Tokyo 2020 official venues. They will serve to introduce the technology to many who have never experienced a hydrogen-powered car.

FCEVs can generate their own electricity from hydrogen, Toyota says, meaning, “…they can help make a future hydrogen-based society a reality and are expected to further contribute to accelerating energy diversification."

The new 2021 Mirai is equipped with an air purifier system uses the feature unique to FCEVs of taking in air to generate electricity and then releasing the air while driving. The system takes in air and purifies it for use in the fuel cell stack before it is released again. The dust filter has been enhanced to capture particles down to the PM2.5 level.

The only emission from fuel cell vehicles besides air is water vapor.

Over the next four years, Toyota plans to establish a full line-up of electrified vehicles to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to have 70 electrified models by 2025.

In 2018, Toyota announced its intention to transform from an automotive company into a mobility company, an idea the company advances today. In April, 93 international journalists on the World Car Awards jury panel voted Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president and CEO the 2021 World Car Person of the Year. In his acceptance speech Toyoda emphasized the idea of mobility.

“As a company, we are dedicated to providing mobility for all... But we are equally commited to creating new ways to support the well-being of our planet and people everywhere."

Akio Toyoda, President and CEO, Toyota Motor Corporation

The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to start on Friday, July 23, with the Olympics Opening Ceremony at 8 pm local time in Tokyo. The games will conclude Sunday, August 8, 2021.




Tokyo 2020 Organising Olympic Committee official website, statements from Toyota Motor Corp. 2014-2021; Tokyo Metropolitan Government; SAE website for classifications of autonomous driving, World Car Awards

By Sunny Lewis, journalist, founder of Environment News Service (ENS) at: ens-newswire.com, and expert in the field of sustainable mobility in the United States and around the Pacific Rim.